UA South exchanges culture with Mexico through new program

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UAS.Arizona.edu

UA associate professor Etta Kralovec works with her students at the Transition To Teaching monthly seminar. TTT works to exchange culture between UA South and the University of Guanajauto.

UA South has a strong relationship to southeastern Arizona due to the fact that its campus is located in Cochise County. Located a little more than 60 miles from the Mexican-American Border, the city of Sierra Vista is surrounded by a vast range of unique cultural, political and educational possibilities. Its location creates the perfect opportunity to build cross-cultural relationships between Mexico and the U.S. and UA South takes advantage of this. They discussed why and how at this month’s TTT Monthly Seminar. As an extension of main campus, UA South offers several distinctive educational programs to its students. One of these programs is Transition To Teaching, a teacher education M.Ed. program. Utilizing the essence of cultural connection, the staff at UA South and the TTT program facilitated a teacher exchange with fellow educators from University of Guanajuato from Nov. 8 to Nov. 15 with one main goal in mind, according to the director for the Graduate Teacher Education programs, Etta Kralovec.

“Exchange of experiences across the borders enrich our perspectives on education, methodology, context and make us realize that the core questions about education are the same, but the answers are context-bound,” said Dr. Sylvia van Dijk, a distinguished professor at the University of Guanajuato, located in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.Van Dijk was one of the six guests from the university. Families of staff and faculty from Bisbee High School and Palominas Elementary School welcomed the two professors and four graduate students from the University of Guanajuato into their homes for the duration of the exchange, according to participants of the exchange.

Over a period of seven days, the Guanajuato guests were able to experience different aspects of the American educational system, as well as become acquainted with the customs found in the southern Arizona region, according to an email written by TTT office specialist Jess Kelly.

Some of the highlights from the exchange included a tour of main campus and Buena High School and a breakfast in Douglas with the Mexican Consulate. The University South Foundation and the Huachuca Astronomy Club of Southeastern Arizona sponsored a night gazing at the stars in UA South’s Patterson Observatory with a presentation from guest speaker Robert Gent. The international guests also had the opportunity to shadow teachers in the respective schools that hosted them.

“We were delighted to have Guanajuato exchange students on campus. It was incredible to have them with our 5th-grade students,” said Bart Nieuwenhuis, principal at Palominas Elementary Schooland one of the staff members who hosted an exchange participant. “It was truly a wonderful experience.”

Nieuwenhuis was present at the conclusion of the exchange on Nov. 14. During the day, the TTT program put on one of their monthly Teacher Education Seminars at Cochise College. Exchange members were able to actively participate throughout the day, collaborating with students and faculty of the TTT program.

In these sessions, the education students and exchange members were able to discuss important topics such as the culture of school violence and teaching methods in multicultural classrooms with distinguished professors, including Kralovec.

“Conversations that reach across borders that address education issues in the 21st century are profoundly important for teachers, especially in Arizona,” Kralovec said toward the end of the seminar. “This week has broken down a lot of assumptions that we all have about each other’s education system.”

The week-long exchange resulted in a stronger cultural understanding, the sharing of valuable information and, most importantly, lifelong friendships which no border can divide.


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